Continued from the series of posts: Kids’ Bikes: They suck and what you can do about it. I started this “series” back in Dec. and then sort of fell off track as things melted down at work. As we’re heading into prime kid-biking season I figured I should dust off the drafts and get the info out there where it might do some good.
It’s possible experienced wrenchers may find this a bit too detailed. If that’s the case, visit the flickr stream for quick some ideas and examples.
I like to think I’m a pretty savvy cookie when it comes to bike parts. I’ve been around them a long time — as a DIYer and a shop rat. And on top of that, I’m a librarian so I know how to handle a search engine. But dang, these 24″ tires are difficult.
Limited choices + confusing sizes
The legendary Sheldon Brown illustrated the problem quite clearly in the following chart:
|24 x 1||520 mm||High performance wheels for smaller riders; Terry front|
|24 x 1 1/8||520 mm or
|24 x 1 1/4||547 mm||British or Schwinn Juvenile|
|24 x 1 3/8 (S-5)||547 mm||Schwinn Juvenile lightweights|
|24 x 1 3/8 (E-5)||540 mm||British Juvenile, most wheelchairs|
|24 x 1.5-24 x 2.125||507 mm||Juvenile mountain bikes, cruisers|
That’s a lot of info for just one size, right? That’s because it isn’t one size. Clearly the 24″ part of the label isn’t to be trusted.
507 ways to get the wrong size
What it also made clear is that for my purposes (and keep in mind, yours could be different: check your sidewall to be sure) the magic number is 507 (millimeters, that is) and not 24 at all.
OK, so once I had the 507 part I could focus on choosing the right tires. There isn’t a whole lot out there. Some $15 Kenda mixed tread (meaning they are bad on the road and bad on dirt), a few over-priced 10-year-old, NOS (new old stock) IRC slicks on ebay, and some cool looking but questionable-quality slick “chopper-style” tires from a number of suspiciously similar looking websites. Unfortunately none of the local shops I tried had a suitable (slickish) 24 in stock at the time of conversion. Maybe that will change when all us utility riding folks start asking for them.
The thing is, I had just yanked a 2lb kickstand from the bike; I didn’t want to go back and add three extra pounds in rubber weight. Oh, and did I mention I’m cheap? So I’m thinking something lighter than the hookworm, and cheaper too.
Really, is that too much to ask?
So I kept looking and eventually stumbled across what I was sure was my dream tire: The Specialized Sport Compound BMX tire. 24×2.0 (yes, I checked: 507mm), belted for flat protection, mostly smooth with a nice siped tread pattern, too. And get this: $15.97 (retail!).
But ha! The joke is on me because it turns out, Specialized has discontinued the tire. Not beefy enough for the DJ (dirt jump) crowd or insufficient profit margin or some such. The Specialized phone rep, though polite, was of limited help. “Yes, they’ve been discontinued. No, I can’t check any stores to see if they have them in stock”….and “hey, are you interested in these really fat knobby tires?”
No matter, surely, a trained librarian can find a pair on the global inter-tubes?
Piece of cake. A few more minutes of searching and I find Calhoun Cycles has them and were willing to ship. That’s a big part of the equation because Specialized dealers often restrict online sales.
Even still, I couldn’t pull the trigger. Because….
The Right Choice
Here’s where I should admit that throughout this entire search I knew exactly where to find the best 507 tire (actually, about 20 of them).
I’m a huge Schwalbe fan. We have the Big Apples on both Xtracycles. I’ve put a little more than 6,000 miles on one set and expect to go another 1k miles at least. That’s a buttload of miles from a big fat tire on a big fat bike.
Anne also has some Marathons on her Oma. These are great tires that happen to come in the magical 507 size. But dang, the Marathons run about$38, each. Those reflective strips are cool and safe and all, but for a tightwad like me $76 is a little out of proportion on a $65 bike.
Sound logic, I know.
So bought the Marathons anyway. When it comes to my daughter and bike parts I’m a weak, weak man. It didn’t help that Anne had been lobbying for the Schwalbe selection from very beginning of this quest?
As it turns out Calhoun had these on their site and I would have had to pass them on my way to buying the cheaper Specialized tires. Sneaky. Between them and Anne, my fiduciary duties never stood a chance.
S0 now I’m here to talk you into ponying up for the good rubber. Sure, they are expensive, but they are a wise choice. Back in December, I got my first (only) Big Apple flat in over a year. Even with 4000 miles down it still took a jagged hunk of someone’s discarded 40 to do penetrate the Apple.
Think of them as tires for the long haul. An investment. The sound environmental choice. Etc. Chances are we’ll put these on the youngest’s bike when he’s ready for the 24″ size.
And besides, those reflective stripes are really cool.